A CITY WITH CHARACTER
CRETE ON THE ROAD: RETHYMNO
Rethymno (Ρέθυμνο). Located between the most important cities, Heraklio and Chania, Rethymno has one of the best preserved old districts on the island. Buildings dating back to the 16th century give an aristocratic atmosphere to the area. Narrow streets, a small Venetian harbour, an impressive Venetian Fortress are must-see places. The Fortezza is one of the best preserved castles in Crete. Both the Venetian and the Turkish styles combine in town adding a unique character to it.
There are two ways to visit the area, either you stay on the endless hotel strip that stretches facing the beach, from the east end of Rethymno, including the coastal villages of Perivolia, Platanias, Adelianos Kambos till you reach Stavromenos (and even farther…); here you can live a more relaxed, beach-oriented vacation. Or else, you can choose to stay in the old town; surrounding yourself with its mix of cultural influences, architecture, history, and styles.
We stayed in Adelianos Kambos for three full days, it was a smart choice because it was close enough to the old town which could be reached after a twenty-minute drive, but far enough to be sheltered from the hustle of the modern city. Yes, the old town has a relaxed environment, cars are not allowed and people still live in the old Venetian houses. However, this ancient oasis is surrounded by the busy life of the many students attending the different universities that populate the area. The modern city is vibrant and has a young spirit.
Rethymno old Town, what to see in a day
The most obvious attraction is the Venetian Fortress, built in the 16th century and captured by the Ottomans in 1646. It is open to the public and you reach is going up from the old town (be ready to walk for a while on cobble-stoned paths). The fortress dominates the town from Paleokastro a low hill which name means ‘The old Castle”. This suggesting there was an even older castle at this place before the Venetian domination, probably the acropolis of the ancient town. It is possible to find a few buildings within the Fortezza, including the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim (formerly the Cathedral of St. Nicolas). Near the mosque, there is a building which probably was the Bishop’s residence. Besides, there is the Council Building, and the churches of St. Theodore and St. Catherine, both of them more recent. There are also gunpowder magazines and water tanks.
Walking away from the Fortress, next to the sea, you reach the old harbour, much smaller than the port of Chania, yet of great strategic importance during the Venetian era. The vaulted spaces in the buildings around the area of the harbour have been turned into picturesque (but a bit expensive) fish tavernas.
Head to the modern city for a convenient but also more authentic Cretan lunch.
From the port, go back to the old town to visit a famous landmark of Rethymno, Rimondi fountain.
Dating back to 1626, it is found in the center of the Venetian town and it has characteristic lion heads, typical of the Venetian architecture. Trees, old street lights, cobble stone paths give a unique style to the old town area.
Neratzes mosque, formerly a church and converted into a mosque during the Ottoman domination. The the roof was replaced by three small domes. They added and a distinctive minaret later. You can visit two interesting museums, one of them about the history of the region (Folklore and History Museum). Another one is the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.
Apart from the old tavernas, fancy bars and little shops you will find strolling the paths of the city, there is a curious Irish pub, famous for it overwhelming decoration, the Old Punch. There it is possible enjoy a glass of authentic Guinnes and listen to traditional Irish Music, rock and blues.
All towns that populate the coastal area of Rethymno offer excellent options for accommodation a few steps away from the sea. There is a plethora of convenient Greek tavernas all around the area that will make you wish for more time to try them all.
The beaches are not overpopulated so it’s easy the perfect sport to spend a relaxing day by the sea. At night you can enjoy a stroll on the main avenue, enjoy a Cretan beer or even play mini-golf with your kids.
If you have a spare afternoon left, devote it to a visit to Moni Preveli Monastery. It dates back to the Middle Ages and the history of the place has a huge importance for the local population. It was an active center for the organization of rebellions against the Turks, contributing to Crete’s independence and political union with Greece. If you are willing to go even farther, it is possible to reach the palm grove beach of Preveli, on the opposite side of the island. Preveli lies at about 35 kilometers from Rethymno and it is certainly a famous beach of the South. The Grand River forms a large lake, opening its way to the sea for over one and a half kilometer.
Find accommodation in Rethymno.
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